In Part 1, I wrote that prebiotics are substances that nourish the growth and activity of beneficial gut flora, and aid in digestion. Probiotics are strains of beneficial gut bacteria themselves. Symbiotics are a combination of both. They are used to address what is known as bowel dysbiosis. PREbiotic herbs used in Chinese medicine are shen qu (Massa Fermenta), lai fu zi (Ralphani Semen), shan zha (Crataegi Fructus), and gan cao. PRObiotics are inherently in all fermented & cultured foods like kimchee (cultured sauerkraut), kiefer, and tempeh. It is also interesting to note how gui zhi (cinnamon twig) and rou gui (cinnamon bark) act as PREbiotics.
According to Freuhauff, Gui Zhi Tang (GZT) is used for earth not containing fire. When dysfunction/ deficiency of the Small Intestines [surface of inside] is impairing digestive fire. Gui zi perfuses both SI lining & stimulates yang to the surface. Use GZT for chronic GI & food allergies; and mental murkiness with feeling mentally stuck due to SP/ SI dysfunction. In this regard, GZT is PREbiotic. It may be used in the remission stage of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Chron's disease is a genetic inflammatory bowel disease that causes an inflammatory response against natural gut flora anywhere in the large and small intestines. So how would cinnamon be beneficial?
Well, in clinical aromatherapy and western herbology cinnamon bark (rou gui) is considered a gastrointestinal adaptinogen, and PREbiotic. Its aromatic phenylpropane-phenol (eugenol and chavicol) content makes it highly anti-infectious, anti-bacterial, and anti-parasitic for deep infections. These constituents are also anti-spasmodic & sedative, antifungal, immune stimulating, invigorating & warming. While rou gui has a hot thermal nature due to these phenols, the cinnamic aldehyde content cools & moderates their hot harshness. Cinnamic aldehyde is anti-inflammatory, but is also has strong antibacterial potency as well. Rou gui can be acrid/drying, but it also releases mucilaginous polysaccharides when ground decocted. The mucilage is a mechanical barrier (demulcent) that soothes the bowel. The polysaccharides modulates gut flora, and decrease gut permeability (Medicinal Plants, 2011).
All these properties make cinnamon versatile for regulating soothing, and healing the bowel when used appropriately. It is adaptinogen capable of being: warming/cooling; stimulating/ antispasmodic; anti-inflammatory/ anti-infectious; and used to regulate diarrhea or constipation.
Integrative Medicine Tip: Rou gui and chi shi zhi (Hallyositum Rubrum) are antagonistic herbs. Chi shi zhi is red clay. Clay is used in Western herbology and Naturopathy to also detoxify the bowel. But it has no nourishing properties. in fact, it binds both the good & bad elements in the gut environment. If used together, Chi shi zhi would usurp rou gui's medicinal properties. Sacred Lotus writes:
"Chi Shi Zhi has the ability to bind to other substances in the gastrointestinal tract forming a solid mass that has limited absorption in the intestines. For this reason, drugs should be taken a few hours before or after the ingestion of Chi Shi Zhi."
Medicnal Plants. (2011). Polysaccharides. Retrieved from
Sacred Lotus. (2013). Chinese herbs: Chi shi zhi (halloysite, kaolin). Retrieved from